As the country continues to digest the 2017/2018 National Budget, Makerere University political economists have slammed the NRM politicians as being unable to carry out urgent reforms that can turnaround Uganda’s stalled economy.
Speaking at a recent pre-budget dialogue organized by the Uganda Economics Association (UEA), a political scientist from Makerere University argued that Uganda’s economy faces a strategic stalemate characterized by jobless growth, worsened by declining economic performance in recent years.
Kiiza called for an overhaul of Uganda’s economic policy framework that was encouraged by western capitalist institutions like the IMF and the World Bank, and embraced by Uganda’s leaders since the early 1990s.
Kiiza argued that Uganda wrongly embraced full economic liberalization.
“Liberalization must happen in an economy that has built high-tech industries and knowledge sectors. We did it when we were still an agrarian economy; waiting for the gods to supply water, to supply fertility, and (relying) on prayers to fight pests and diseases. That is what has gone wrong,” Kiiza said, rekindling the sharp captivating academic critique that used to be delivered back in the late 1990s by fallen MUK Professors like Akiiki Mujaju and Ali Mazrui.
Kiiza added: “It was extremely wrong for us to succumb to the fetishism of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The idea of full capital liberalization was wrong. What is happening is that foreigners are free to bring in their money, but they are also free to take it out as and when they want.”
Although Kiiza attempted to offer solutions for putting Uganda’s economy back on track, he argued that the team of policy developers and executors have outlived their usefulness and cannot be trusted to turnaround Uganda’s economy.
“I want to argue that for us to overcome the strategic stalemate, we have to think business unusual. Politics is central to the way we allocate and misallocate resources. The fundamental challenge we face as a country is this: Is it possible to have new thinking with old thinkers,” asked Kiiza.
He added: “Can you do the same thing over and over again, with the same regularity and we expect different outcomes? That is what Albert Einstein called the art of stupidity. And that is a key component of the strategic stalemate this country faces.”
The dialogue was kicked off by a keynote presentation that was delivered by Dr. Lawrence Bategeka, the former Head of the Economic Policy Research Centre based at Makerere University and now the MP of Hoima Municipality. Bategeka argued that he does not think technocrats in the ministry of finance can champion the desired reforms because they have failed.